For most service desks, there are several processes core to their support structure – most commonly incident and problem management. I recently took part in a webinar that sought to identify seven high-level opportunities to improve both of these processes. As is often the case, I used the opportunity to do a spot of research and conducted a series of surveys throughout.
One such poll asked participants what their biggest process challenge is. There was one clear winner – getting people to follow the process. As a challenge this pops up fairly regularly when I am working with service desks, however, here was the data clearly revealing the scale of the problem. Indeed, many of the questions at the end of the webinar called for help in rectifying or mitigating this issue. For me, some simple steps can be followed to alleviate this challenge while improving the processes themselves.
To begin tackling this we need to make one assumption that for many can be a little challenging – people don’t stop following a process to be awkward. In all likelihood, there is a legitimate reason for their actions. Perhaps they find the process too complicated or unworkable, or they cannot readily recognise the value of some of the steps. Whatever their reason, we need to figure out what it is and either improve the process or articulate its importance.
Step One: Be open to improvements
It’s fair to say that there is always room for improvement – ITSM processes are no different. The fact that stakeholders are not following a process is a clear signal that something’s amiss. At this stage, taking a step back to assess the process and gather feedback from stakeholders is crucial. The real challenge for many service desk managers is to avoid defending the process and instead be open to the improvements recommended by staff.
The improvements suggested by those who are the closest to the process are invaluable. Implementing them when possible offers two main advantages. Firstly, service desk staff have a unique perspective on the various stages and actions of the process – often blending their experiences with those relayed to them by customers. These improvements can often provide the most value. Secondly, implementing the improvements will foster an environment of collaboration and ownership – individuals are far more likely to follow a process they have helped to build.
Step Two: Engage with other Stakeholders
Collecting the opinions and experiences of a range of process stakeholders is a vital part of uncovering and rectifying issues. Gathering insight from across functions and using it to develop a process that incorporates the various considerations and needs of all those who touch the process – from customers to the service desk team to other IT teams.
The variety of perspective is essential. For example, improvements readily spotted by customers may be much harder to uncover from the service desk’s perspective alone. In my experience, it may not be immediately apparent what is wrong with a process, however, all of the symptoms of a failing one are present. Bringing in a range of perspectives will ensure you cover all angles when searching for issues such as bottlenecks or areas of inefficiency.
Step Three: Articulate the Value
Sometimes implementing improvements is not possible. For example, it may seem beneficial to automate sections of a process however the technology or resources may not be available to do so. If you have made all possible improvements, then the final step to secure buy-in and ensure stakeholders follow the process is to articulate its value. With limited information, it is not always possible to understand what value a step adds to a process. However, once this value is explained and assuming the reasoning is sound, stakeholders should more readily buy into the process.
Articulating this value can often be a challenge – some steps may be mandatory due to complex security requirements for example. However, there should always be some value to articulate. If there isn’t, the step in the process may not be required. The method of assessing a process for the value it delivers can be an enlightening experience – for those seeking to start, reading up on Lean methodologies is a good place to begin.
ITSM processes should be designed to offer consistent business value. If they are not – whether it is because people are not following them or one of the other symptoms of a failing process – it is time to engage with stakeholders and reevaluate the process to discover what is causing the problem.